A host of Irish runners this weekend at Cheltenham and Doncaster and we take a look at their prospects here.
Lord Justice and Zig Zag are both entered in the JCB TRIUMPH TRIAL JUVENILE HURDLE on Saturday and if one, or both, take up the option to run it should give trainer Joseph O’Brien a good handle on the line of form with the British juveniles.
In the STAN JAMES INTERNATIONAL HURDLE Labaik (Gordon Elliot) and Ivan Grozny (Willie Mullins) take on likely favourite My Tent Or Yours. Ivan Grozny took the Grade 2 Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary last time out and doesn’t have much to find with the principals but perhaps the biggest danger will be Yanworth who reverts to 2 miles here having just scraped home over 2 ½ miles at Ascot.
Admirable dual-purpose horse My Manekineko is entered in the BET365 HANDICAP HURDLE and definitely has a chance on his 4th behind Rashaan and Apples Jade at Down Royal while Bay Of Freedom tries to bring up the hat-trick for Peter Fahey in the BET365 DECEMBER NOVICES´ CHASE. He faces stiff competition however from the English powerhouse stables who are represented by Champers On Ice and O O Seven amongst others.
Closer to home we have Navan and Punchestown this weekend and a lot of the stars of the 2015/2016 National Hunt season making their re-appearance.
Yorkhill, the horse that Ruby Walsh said would win the 2017 Arkle “with his mouth open”, is entered in a beginners chase at Navan on Saturday and it will be interesting to see how he gets on over 2 ½ miles.
All eyes will be on the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday if Douvan takes up his entry and this should be a perfect pipe-opener for the Champion chaser in-waiting.
The John Durkan takes centre stage at Punchestown and Djakadam bids to follow up last year’s victory on his way to a 3rd crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. He’ll be taken on by the much improved Sub Lieutenant and Outlander but the biggest danger might well be stablemate Black Hercules.
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